Ozzie Newsome's farewell Ravens draft was pure wizardry

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Inside the Baltimore Ravens draft room, Ozzie Newsome's final draft as general manager ended with tears, emotional hugs, a standing ovation and a bold statement from coach John Harbaugh.

"I told Ozzie just as we finished this thing up, I feel like this is his best draft since I’ve been here -- heck, maybe the best ever," Harbaugh said.

Newsome owned this draft, the 23rd of his illustrious career. Each move felt calculated. Each pick came with a purpose.

While at times it felt like Newsome was never going to pick a player, his repeated trades back still landed targeted players and filled needs. Newsome's maneuver at the end of the first round was one of the shrewdest decisions of the draft and perhaps the best-orchestrated plan of his career.

After three days and 12 draft picks, Newsome addressed the team's biggest void not once, but twice, with pass-catching tight ends Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews, selected a onetime top right tackle prospect in Orlando Brown Jr. and landed the franchise's quarterback of the future with Lamar Jackson.

"I really, really feel very good about this class and how it came to be," Newsome said. "[I can say] that the Baltimore Ravens -- there is no doubt in my mind –- are a better football team and will give us an opportunity to get to not only where we want to go to, but all of our fans and everybody that wears that purple. Let’s get into the playoffs and hopefully get to another Super Bowl."

Newsome's reputation for being one of the NFL's all-time best decision-makers began in his first draft, when he selected two Hall of Fame players (Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis) in the first round. His final draft appropriately included two first-rounders and once again showcased his expertise at working the draft.

Starting off with the No. 16 overall pick, the Ravens moved back to No. 22, picking up a third-round pick that was later used for Andrews. Baltimore then fell to No. 25, adding what would be a critical fourth-rounder and allowing the Tennessee Titans to move up for Alabama inside linebacker Rashaan Evans (a reported target of the rival Pittsburgh Steelers).

Despite moving back twice, the Ravens were able to take Hurst, the top tight end on their draft board. What came next could impact the franchise for years to come.

Newome surprisingly traded back into the first round for Jackson. All the Ravens had to give up to jump 20 spots for the former Heisman Trophy winner was a 2019 second-round pick and the fourth-rounder they acquired in one of their trades in the first round. It was crucial for Baltimore to get Jackson in the first round because of the fifth-year option (which second-rounders don't get), which means the Ravens won't have to rush Jackson into the starting role.

There will be some second-guessing. Baltimore passed on safety Derwin James at No. 16 and chose not to take wide receiver D.J. Moore at No. 22. The Ravens, though, were executing a long-thought-out plot in the first round.

"I’m going to use a word that John [Harbaugh] uses all the time: It was ‘masterful’ – the way it happened in the draft room [in the first round]," Newsome said. "The trades came to us, and we were able to acquire some picks in the third and fourth round, then having the ability to go back up and get the quarterback at the end of the round -- it was unbelievable."

Newsome understands what it means to be masterful. He built two Super Bowl champion teams and selected 16 players who would become Pro Bowl players in his first 13 drafts.

But Newsome, who will remain with the organization after giving the GM role to assistant Eric DeCosta, acknowledged that his recent drafts haven't been up to the team's standards. In the past nine years, only two draft picks (linebacker C.J. Mosley and fullback Kyle Juszczyk) have become Pro Bowl players for Baltimore.

This wasn't a situation where Newsome was trying to vindicate himself in the final draft. His lack of an ego has always been seen as the key to his success.

Those who have worked with Newsome believe it was important for him to leave the franchise set up to win this year and in the future. This draft has Newsome's personal fingerprints all over it.

The Hall of Fame tight end used two of his first four picks on that position. The Ravens became the first team to draft two tight ends in the first three rounds since the 2012 Colts.

Newsome continued to mine his alma mater by taking two Alabama players in Brown and cornerback Anthony Averett. He has now chosen 10 Alabama players, the most Crimson Tide selections for any team since 1997.

And Newsome made one of his most heartfelt picks in drafting Brown in the third round. There was a longtime connection between Newsome and Brown's father, nicknamed "Zeus," who started 80 games for the Ravens. Now, Newsome drafts Brown's son, who can play for the same team and at the same right tackle position as his father.

All of the Ravens' first three picks -- Hurst, Jackson and Brown -- had been linked to Baltimore in mock drafts at No. 16. Newsome got all of them much later than that.

"The Baltimore Ravens are a better football team after the past three days," Newsome said. "But ask me two years from now, because now we have to get them in, we have to work with them, we have to develop them, and then two years from now we’ll be able to determine what job we did this weekend."

It will take time before the final assessment of Newsome's last draft class can be made. But for those who watched Newsome move up and down with every trade to get his desired players, it was pure wizardry.